Life isn’t always that easy, and our desired outcomes don’t always simply flow to us uninterrupted. That’s why developing and honing our negotiation skills is so vital. How many times over the past year could you have improved an outcome using smarter negotiation tactics and planning? Skills like this don’t typically come to one naturally, so it’s only natural that you must continuously focus and work on them. That’s exactly why I jumped on an invitation last month to moderate a panel on just this topic. The experts hailed from human resources, real estate, the auto industry, and law. And they unanimously agreed on the following four negotiation tips to keep in mind as you pursue ambitions and outcomes from the small to the life changing.
Tip #1: Leave Your Battle Armor at Home
Most negotiation instances in our culture don’t warrant a battle armor mentality. In fact, you need willing participation and agreement from both parties for a deal to be made. Margaret Neale, an Adams distinguished professor of management at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, promotes this idea. She suggests that rather than going in ready for a fight, we should take a different approach. Her research shows it’s more beneficial to think about it as a process with the aim to make your situation better, while allowing the other party to be whole, or maybe even better off as well.
In order to fully realize the benefits of this mindset, the next three tips are key.
Tip #2: Do Your Homework
Seems elementary, but all of the experts agreed that preparation was the most underutilized asset with the greatest upside. Preparation not only arms you with facts, it makes you more confident.
Salary Insights: Get the landscape from sites that crowdsource salary information like Payscale and Glassdoor. Other sites that compile salary data and have various helpful tools are SalaryExpert, Salary.com, Careerbliss.com and Careeronestop.org.
Don’t Forget Your Network: There’s a lot of excellent information to be found online, whether it’s salary ranges, current car prices, or price per square foot of comparable homes. But when you are heading into unfamiliar territory, your network is a big asset. For example, if you are negotiating a salary in a new industry or with a company that will include equity, it’s time to reach out to people in your network who have relevant and recent experience in these areas. Identify three to four people you can contact for a range of perspectives.
Tip #3: Use Silence to Your Advantage
It’s easy to talk too much in a negotiation, whether it’s nerves or passion about your idea. The importance of taking pauses is twofold. First, if you make a strong point, and then keep talking, you can potentially weaken your own position by providing information you meant to keep close to the vest. In times like this, less can be more. Secondly, it’s vital to listen to your counterparty to further understand what they are looking to get out of the negotiation. Often being a good negotiator means being the best listener.
Get on the same page: When you are negotiating as a team with a spouse or partner, it’s especially important to agree on the listening strategy.
My husband and I were recently selling a piece of art to a dealer. Art is unknown territory for both of us. So we started by heeding tip #1. We knew the dealer was adding value and that he was going to need room for his markup, and we approached the deal from that perspective.
We also followed tip #2 with some advance fact-finding. We had selected a dealer with success moving this artist’s work. So before our meeting we researched current pricing and determined our price thresholds, including our walk away price.
When we arrived, we allowed the dealer to do most of the talking. He started by enumerating the costs involved in shipping and prepping the piece for sale and went on to explain that sales for this particular artist weren’t robust, which we knew from our research.
But then the dealer steered himself into positive territory, remarking that the piece was in very good condition and that the original frame and labeling from a gallery showing in New York City were pluses for some buyers. Essentially we let him talk his way right to our target price.
I have to admit we were both pretty darn quiet. I think had one of us interrupted him at the beginning when he was listing the litany of expenses and barriers, we may not have reached the positive resolution, or certainly not as easily.
Tip #4: Practice in Low Risk Situations
Why not make negotiation second nature by practicing? A great way to do this is to find low-risk negotiation opportunities. With experience, comes comfort and mastery.
Peer to Peer Selling: Online sites and apps like Craigslist and Offerup make it incredibly easy to buy and sell items and negotiate. In fact, sellers expect it. A friend of mine recently boasted on Facebook that she had just sold a leather couch on craigslist and the buyer didn’t even try to negotiate.
Mobile & Cable Providers: Contact them to reduce your monthly fee. It’s a great opportunity to flex your negotiation muscle and save some money.
Use these tips so that whether you have your sights set on a car, your career, or cheaper cable, you’ll be in a better position to get the best deal possible.